Friday, May 26, 2017
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School Board discusses closure of PRV School

The Jackson County Board of Education held two meetings last week. During the first meeting, the board voted to accept the resignation of Bruce Maples. Maples previously served as principal at Woodville High School. He will remain employed with the school system as a tenured teacher.

Superintendent Kevin Dukes addressed the crowd of Woodville citizens present following the meeting. Dukes stated that the previous Friday they were alerted of a threat made at the school. The authorities were immediately called. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office went to the individual’s home. On the following Monday, the student met at the central office. A call was received that the student was on campus, however, he was not on campus, he was not armed and he was simply walking down the road to a friend’s house. Dukes stated that the JCSO had 8 people there immediately and the school was placed on lockdown. Dukes explained that had he stopped procedure long enough to do an all call, the issue could have gotten out of hand, he did the all call after the situation was resolved. He further explained, that when they’re involved with juveniles and investigations he can never provide the information. However, a school cast will go out after the issue is resolved. Duke’s assured citizens that the students’ safety is the number one priority.

Sheriff Chuck Phillips explained that when dealing with a juvenile, laws are much stiffer. He stated, “Some of the parents have completely blown this out of proportion, they’ve put it on Facebook, they’ve made phone calls to media and even told media they “saw” this guy with a gun. He was not on school property and there was no weapon. Phillips further stated, “I’ve got 17 schools and four or five deputies out there, that’s the best I can do.”

Parents responded and stated they should have been notified when the school was locked down with basic information.

Board President Chad Gorham stated, “When we’re under lock down, the last thing we want to do is open the doors for parents to pick up children. It’s counterproductive.”

On Thursday, several parents from both Woodville and Paint Rock Valley attended the meeting. Dukes addressed the crowd and the board regarding the closing of Paint Rock Valley High School. Dukes became upset during his presentation, stating, “This is a tough issue. This has been a tough day. You know what you need to do, you know what you’ve got to do. There’s so many factors in this. I’m from a small school, I know what this is to a community. I’ve had people say this is something that has been talked about for many years. It’s time to let these people know what’s going to happen, one way or the other. Every time you talk to someone from PRV they ask. They need to know what’s going to happen. In my opinion, I’m not worried about what’s going to happen with the students in this because they’re going to be in good hands either way. But for the faculty and staff, it bothers me.” Dukes went on to show the enrollment at Paint Rock Valley has decreased from 148 in 2005 to 79 students as of March 15. Over 12 years, enrollment has decreased 47 percent. On January 23, the Board allowed exception to the enrollment policy to try to boost enrollment. However, the school had five students withdraw and three enroll, two of which were principals children. Duke’s presented a letter from the State Department of Education in 2010 recommending that the school be closed. Dukes stated to start a new school, 250 students are required. Currently there are 8.33 state allocated teaching units at the school, this includes a full time principal, a full time counselor and 6.33 instructional teachers. There are 1.03 locally funded, and .33 federally funded teaching units at the school.

CSFO Jeff Middleton addressed the board with financial information. According to Middleton, the average spending per student at PRV is $12,351.422 per year, throughout the rest of the county, the average spending is $8,488.13. Middleton stated that by closing PRV the JCBOE would save approximately $423,000 per year.

Mr. Kirby addressed the maintenance needs at the school. Kirby stated that a minimum of $350,000 is needed to update the school lunchroom. Kirby stated that it would be more financially responsible to demolish the lunchroom and rebuild. He further stated that the agriculture building is also not up to code and the restrooms at the school are not handicap accessible.

Jennifer Dutton addressed the child nutrition program at the school. Dutton stated that the health department continues to cite the school because the lunchroom facility is out of date. Dutton stated that last year the lunch program at PRV lost $19,000 and this year the loss is expected to increase.

Federal Programs Supervisor Mark Guffey stated that before federal monies are placed, the JCBOE is required to show that all state and local monies are placed at a comparable rate among the schools. Currently, PRV is not included due to enrollment being under 100. If the school stays open, according to Guffey, and enrollment reaches more than 100 because the cost per pupil is so much higher all schools would be jeopardized without additional measures being taken. Guffey stated, “If we are not comparable on our annual report, we run the risk of losing money, experiencing paybacks or citations. All of these possibilities could have an impact on not only PRV, but every school in Jackson County.” Guffey further elaborated that if PRV is not comparable on federal funding other schools within the system would lose money as well.

Director of Student Services, Rhonda Wheeler stated that in the case of an emergency, response times are much longer for PRV than at any other school in Jackson County.

Dukes finished by stating if the board chooses to keep the school open, the JCBOE will support the school and it will remain open as long as he is Superintendent.

The issue is expected to be voted on at a regular board meeting in April.

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